Abu Dhabi: Members of the Federal National Council unanimously demanded an integrated approach to food safety be adopted to ensure a high level of food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health across the UAE through coherent farm-to-table measures and adequate monitoring.
A motion by Ahmad Mohammad Rahmeh Al Shamsi, a member from Ajman, which was unanimously adopted by the House, is meant to ensure effective federal control systems are enforced and to evaluate compliance with international standards in the food safety and quality, animal health, animal welfare, animal nutrition and plant health sectors within the UAE and in third countries in relation to their exports to the country.
Al Shamsi demanded that a federal food watchdog be set up to ensure a high level of food safety across the country through farm-to-fork monitoring.
“The food safety situation is catastrophic in certain emirates. I visited laboratories at some emirates and found the situation is disastrous, with chicken, food cans and poorly maintained equipment being scattered on the floor,” Al Shamsi said.
He demanded that the FAO and WHO food safety guidelines be strictly enforced to ensure farm-to-table monitoring of food across the country, stressing that food quality is different from one emirate to another, and real food safety legislations and research are absent.
Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, disagreed and said the food safety situation in the UAE was not that “grim”.
“The UAE, the gate of food for more than 1.5 billion people, imports more than 86 per cent of foods consumed in the country and only 3 per cent of these foods are rejected for labelling and not quality related issues. Millions visit the UAE and the food safety tops our priorities,” Bin Fahd said, citing that the UAE has an effective food monitoring system and it was the first country in the world to carry food poisoning tests of pistachio nuts in 1996.
Bin Fahd said the UAE enforces articles of CODEX which ensure that food is compliant with quality standards in relation to public cleanliness and nutritional value.
The measures implemented include microbiological analysis and control over food additive substances, veterinary drug debris, pesticides and toxic waste. CODEX also requires that the foodstuff ingredients and information be displayed on the containers and that samples are taken and analysed.
The minister added that Australia exports more than 90 per cent of its meat exports to the world through the UAE ports, citing the confidence shown by more than 4,200 companies from 110 countries which participated in the global food leaders summit, Gulfood 2013, held in Dubai recently.
Al Shamsi disagreed and said: “If the minister does not see the food safety situation as “so grim, it is not so bright either. The food leaders’ participation in the Gulfood 2013 does not reflect confidence in the UAE’s food safety, it is more of an appreciation of the country’s exhibition infrastructure and facilities for marketing and trade.”
Mohammad Ahmad Al Murr, Speaker of the House, asked that members who support the motion to set up a federal food agency to raise their hands. The members unanimously voted for the motion, which will be presented to the Cabinet.
By Samir Salama Associate Editor, GULF NEWS